The European Southern Observatory’s VISTA survey telescope has turned its eyes inward to the center of our galaxy, and for the first time has looked straight through it. VISTA’s latest batch of infrared images have discovered two new globular clusters here in the Milky Way that had never been seen before, but more importantly they are the first star clusters that we’ve been able to image beyond the dusty and gaseous core of our galaxy.
That’s because the galactic center is extremely difficult for us to see through. Anything beyond the dense and swirling clouds of interstellar dust and other gases is impossible to see in the invisible spectrum, but VISTA’s infrared eyes can peer deep into areas impermeable with visible range telescopes.
The two new clusters–titled VVV CL001 and VVV CL002 (catchy, no?)–appear faint but visible in the new VISTA images. The beautiful panorama above is dominated by the bright globular cluster UKS 1 on the right hand side of the image, but if you look toward the upper left quadrant of the image you can see VVV CL001 as the faint bright spot that looks like a concentration of stars and gas. VVV CL002 is more visible in the detail below, where it rests squarely in the center of the image.
Download the ginormized, wallpaper-quality pic via ESO.